THE huge mansion that former president Robert Mugabe’s daughter Bona and son-in-law Simba Mutsahuni have been struggling to complete since the longtime ruler was unceremoniously removed from power through a coup in 2017 is sitting on land that was corruptly acquired.
Construction of the mansion, initially pegged at US$39 million, was moving fast prior to Mugabe’s removal from power and continued albeit at a reduced pace until Mugabe’s death in September 2019.
Following Mugabe’s death, work has been moving at a snail’s pace, with insiders revealing that the budget has been cut from US$39 million to US$20 million after the couple decided to forego some stylish decorations, security measures and other specifications.
Government officials say Mugabe, using his influence, was playing a prominent role in the construction of the mansion, hence it is not surprising that Simba and Bona are struggling to complete it since his death.
“One can say that the house was being funded through corruption and influence peddling. The land it is built on was acquired through corruption and therefore it stands as a monument of corruption,” an official said.
The 20-hectare prime land, situated at stand number 61 Helensvale, has a long history of contestation and was once corruptly grabbed by former Finance minister Ignatious Chombo, during his tenure as Local Government minister.
Although council records say the land is 20ha, civil engineers and land surveyors familiar with the land say it is in fact 22ha.
The land in question was however zoned for recreational purposes. Several individuals, companies and faith-based organisations have over the years tried to buy the land but were turned down by council because of previous municipal resolutions.
Chombo also turned down several applications for change of land use, but that did not stop him from acquiring the land for himself in 2008, with the assistance of his cronies stationed at the City of Harare, causing an uproar at the local authority, council documents show.
At the time, the City of Harare was being run by a commission handpicked by Chombo.
A special investigations committee’s report on the city’s land sales, leases and exchanges from 2004 to 2009, dated 23 March 2010, recommended that “Stand 61 Helensvale should revert to its Town Planning Scheme purposes and remain an open space for recreational purposes”.
But it was then again corruptly acquired by the Mutsahunis with Chombo’s assistance.
After The NewsHawks last month revealed that the Mutsahunis were struggling to complete the mansion, The Herald revealed that after being acquired by Chombo, the land was eventually sold to the Mutsahunis for a paltry US$2 300.
Real estate agents are selling a 20ha piece of land in Helensvale for up to US$7.2 million.
The land was acquired through Chordac Investments, whose two directors are listed in the Companies’ Registry office as being Bona and Simbarashe Mutsahuni (also known as Chikore).
Chombo’s name does not appear on Chordac Investments’ CR14 Form, although his close ally Nelson Mhandu, who was a deputy director in the ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, was one of the founding directors along with Natsai Jaiwa, who was a principal administration officer in the ministry during Chombo’s tenure, The Herald investigation found.
Mhandu and Jaiwa however resigned as directors of the company on 11 November 2015, leaving Bona and Simba as the directors.
Sequence of events
According to the City of Harare’s special investigations committee chaired by Councillor Worship Dumba, change of use for 61 Helensvale was first discussed at a full council meeting on 4 October 1990, which then resolved on 22 September 1992 that the stand “be subdivided and be sold to people on the housing waiting list as sub-serviced stands.”
At the time, there was no need to seek the minister’s consent for the change of use on 61 Helensvale since it had an approved town planning scheme according to the Regional Town and Country Planning Act Of 1976.
On 2 December 1992, the City of Harare agreed to the sale of subdivision of stand 61 Helensvale.
However, the City of Harare withdrew the change of use after residents of Budleigh Park objected in June 1994.
“They wanted it to remain a natural reserve area and formed the Budleigh Park Natural Reserve Association comprised of households in the neighbourhood,” the report reads.
Among people and companies who applied for the stand but were turned down citing the previous council resolution are Edson Jon Zimbanda and Aggrey Francis Samasuwo (1996), Eddy Chirwa of Jew Construction (1996), Dotworks (Pvt) Ltd (2000), Petunia Chiriseri (2004), World Ablaze Ministries (2006), T Mangabe (2006).
However, Chombo wrote a letter dated 13 December 2006 addressed to then town clerk Tendai Mahachi proposing his acquisition of 61 Helensvale.
On 21 March 2008 the city’s director of Urban Planning, Psychology Chiwanga, tabled a report advising council about Chombo’s intentions. He recommended to council that the minister be sold the stand without going to tender as per council policy.
“The Commission considered the report on 21 March 2008 and on 25 March 2008 urgently sat again, pegged the price and sold the stand on the same day,” the report reads.
“Two days later (27/03/08) Chiwanga wrote to Minister Chombo advising him that Council had agreed to his application.”
The report noted that Chiwanga was acting more like Chombo’s agent since he influenced the Commission to sell the stand without going to tender as per Council policy and he continuously updated him on progress on the matter.
“Change of Land use was only approved on 28 March 2008 by Minister Chombo way after he had already bought it,” the report reads.
“According to the advice of sale, the stand was sold on the eve of the March 2008 harmonised elections.”
The committee found that Chombo acquired the stand irregularly since he did not follow council laid down procedures and that Chiwanga influenced the commission to sell the stand to the minister without going to tender as per council policy.
The committee found that Chombo got interest in the property after considering several applications forwarded to his office for approval. Chombo turned down the applications.
Conflict of interest
“The Director of Urban Planning Services (Chiwanga) who is involved in these shoddy land deals was formerly employed in the Ministry of Local Government before being seconded to Council. He was later elevated to head the Department of Urban Planning Services after the unceremonious dismissal of Engineer Christopher Zvobgo,” the committee noted.
“M. Gandiwa who worked as a planner in the same Ministry and was responsible for approving change of land use for the Minister was also seconded to Council City Planner on the eve of the 2008 harmonised elections.
“The Investigating Committee noted with concern that the Minister would ‘identify’ land, and then council would apply to him for change of land use on the stand applied for, he in turn would approve the same and advise Council before buying the property.”
Accordingly, the committee resolved that “council should repossess Stand 61 Helensvale because: It was acquired irregularly and that there was conflict of interest on the part of the beneficiary.”
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